Celebrate Valentine's year round to nurture relationship: Deakin expert

Media release
14 February 2019

Valentine's Day is an important reminder to foster positive experiences with our loved ones year-round, according to a Deakin University relationship expert.

Associate Professor Gery Karantzas, Director of Deakin's Science of Adult Relationships Laboratory within the School of Psychology, said a strong relationship wasn’t just about steering clear of the bad times, but regular and deliberate engagement in positive experiences together was essential.

"The idea behind Valentine's Day is that it's a date devoted to the expression of appreciation for one another," Associate Professor Karantzas said.

"Typically people do positive things to celebrate it, and that touches on one of the important things about relationships people tend to forget.

"Relationships don't only breakdown because of the presence of negative things, but they can fizzle out due to a lack of positive things."

Associate Professor Karantzas said research showed that getting the ratio of positivity versus negativity right in a relationship was essential. But he said it was important that extended year round, and you couldn't just 'catch-up' come Valentine's Day through some big elaborate demonstration of love.

"People tend to put in a lot of effort around some of these 'special' days, but we should be making attempts to foster relationship positivity whenever we can, simple consistent acts matter," he said.

"So it's not necessarily an elaborate gift or gesture, often it can be something as simple as taking a walk together, or sharing in a joke. We want to foster positive relationship experiences, because when we stop doing that, relationships suffer.

"Positive experiences are a way to inoculate yourself and your partner from tough times in a relationship, because they will come.

"But ultimately it's just nice to feel special, it gives us a positive hit. It makes us realise why we're in the relationship in the first place, reflect on our partner's positive qualities, and remember how much we like spending time with them."

Associate Professor Karantzas said this was particularly important with people leading increasingly busy and stressful lives.

"That's why couples feel their lowest relationship satisfaction when their children are young," he said.

"They spend so much time investing in their children, they don't feel so special to one another anymore.

"It's easy to forget what it's like to enjoy each other's time, to share affection, or what you like about them. We're spread so thin, we often need to make that conscious decision to connect and share some special time together.

"This Valentine's Day, just take the time to appreciate who you have in front of you. This is the person you've chosen to have meaningful relationship with, that is a good thing and it should be celebrated, each and every day."

Associate Professor Karantzas' tips for extending the positivity of Valentine's Day year-round:

  • Keep acts simple, but thoughtful, based on understanding the kinds of things your partner appreciates, or an experience that the two of you can appreciate together. For example, if you're making dinner both partners could share the cooking duties for a meal, but each person could cook something that the other really likes.
  • Make time to spend together, in a busy world it's hard to find the time. So plan out an activity to do together or to go on a date every so often.
  • Don't forget to communicate your positive regard for each other and let your partner know every once in a while the qualities about them you admire, respect, or love. It can be a quiet word, or a hug that lets them know of your regard for them. What matters is that the act is intentional and that the partner recognises you appreciate them.

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